From Cassio lamenting “I have lost the immortal part of myself…My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” in Othello to Mr. Darcy declaring “My good opinion once lost is lost forever” in Pride and Prejudice, literature is full of characters and lines espousing the importance of maintaining one’s good name. We naturally want others to think well of us, even more so when business is at stake, and especially now that the Internet’s made it ever easier for faux pas to be career finishers.
On the one hand, that makes sense. Actions have consequences, reputations can be hard to salvage, and like Mr. Darcy alludes to, once your customers’ “good opinion” of you is lost, it may be “lost forever.”
Cancel Culture has its place, but you don’t want to be the next figure cancelled for bad behavior online.
These basic steps can help ensure you promote yourself and your business while avoiding social media faux pas and ensuring your online reputation remains intact.
- Private vs. Public Personas
The first and most essential step to preventing online faux pas is by keeping your private life and views out of your public, professional persona. Set your Facebook and any similar social media accounts so only friends can see what you post. Do not post potentially insulting or inflammatory subjects on your public, professional account. Whether your tone is more formal or informal, inappropriate and unprofessional language can irreparably damage your reputation even before you open.
2. Register Your Domain Name Proactively
John Oliver on Last Week Tonight frequently takes on controversial and offensive people by preemptively buying domain names people might search and dedicating those domains to mocking that figure. Your “good name” online depends a great deal on how people first encounter you, and in many cases, that means a Google search yielding top-ranked domain names.
While Oliver’s targets are usually deserving, you don’t want to wind up on the wrong end of someone else’s online mockery. As such, it’s prudent to be proactive about registering domain names most commonly associated with your name and company.
Preemptively registering a domain name is also essential for promoting your business. You don’t want someone else taking a domain name someone is likely to search for when Googling your business.
3. Create a Social Media Strategy
Of course, a positive online reputation isn’t just about following the social mores of social media, but learning how to market yourself on there as well. In a world of countless choices a click away, a neutral opinion isn’t enough. You need people to have a “good opinion” of your company from the instant they see you. There are plenty of effective ways to do this on social media, including:
● Adopting a playful, humorous, yet still professional tone in posts
● Posting frequently and reliably enough that you stay in people’s minds
● Using trending hashtags to your advantage
● Contacting Influencers about possible promotion on their established social media channels
4. Avoid Arguments Online
As mentioned above, controversies and potentially offensive material are almost always a death knell for new companies. You don’t want to be drawn into a “flame war,” and you certainly don’t want to be dragged into the fiery pit of professional and personal reputational ruin which can accompany them.
We all have our values, and those can be worth fighting for. On the whole, your best bet is usually to avoid arguments and controversies altogether, especially while using your professional account.
5. The Ethics of Apologies
Some people never admit their mistakes, and it can cost them dearly. That’s especially true online, where the fear of a pile on after admitting a mistake is very real. That said, the reputational damage of doubling down on mistakes and refusing to admit them is almost always far greater than simply swallowing that bitter pill.
Good reputation management means managing public opinion. If the public’s first and primary opinion of you is as someone who’s not just wrong but stubbornly refuses to admit it, why would customers ever trust you?
6. Outdated Content Must Be Deleted
If the first thing users see when they view your content is that it’s months old, they may think you’re no longer in business. At the very least they’ll think you’re a company that doesn’t care to engage online and can’t keep up with trends.
In this sense, reputational management visa vi deleting old content is like good personal hygiene — ignoring it is almost certainly going to leave customers turning up their noses and going elsewhere.
It’s a fresh, bold, ever-updating online world out there, so “Out with the Old and in with the New.”
7. Monitor Your Name
Tools such as Google Alerts can help you keep track of what people are saying about you and your company. This can help you see how customers are actually responding to your company and thus enable you to make the tweaks necessary to preserve and boost your reputation.
With these simple steps, you can capture customers “good opinion” and grow your reputation.